Former Foster Child ~ My Best and Worst Lists After Foster Care
As a former foster child it is easy to get caught up in all the negatives, and overlook any good things about being a foster child.
Aside from the obvious of saving me from a bad home life, my childhood years being fostered (and my early adult years as a self-conscious former foster child) really have offered other developmental benefits.
I remember when I first came out of foster care. I was angry, still caught up in the moment of everything and every one who had ever done me wrong.
But once I’d grown up and ventured into adult life for a few years, I gained the ability to see the positives and negatives without as much bias.
I am now a 32 year old mother and wife. While the pain of my past remains (and I won’t lie, I am still a bit angry), I can look at my life a bit differently.
I believe every former foster child who dreams of a happy future would benefit from knowing that as we age, some of our anger can turn into appreciation.
The 3 Best Things About Being a Former Foster Child
With all things there is good and bad.
These are the positive outcomes of being a former foster child.
1. I Developed Empathy While in Foster Care.
The best thing foster care did for me was give me empathy. I didn’t see it at the time, or I didn’t know what it was called.
Yet here I am 13 years out of foster care, and I still worry about foster children and abused children.
If I wasn’t an abused child who went through foster care myself, I think I would be like most other people. I’d care for a moment when I heard about another tragedy on the tv news. But I wouldn’t be actively speaking out about foster care and child abuse.
My personal experience means I can relate to the horrors many foster kids experience. Would I have the ability (and willingness) to be a voice if I had not gone through what I did? Being shuffled around in the system I saw many other foster children. Each of us with our own sad stories.
My heart breaks for those still going into the foster system. So I am glad that being in the system made me see the horrible things, and gives me a voice of experience as I do what I can to bring attention to the issues.
2. I’m a Former Foster Child ~ so I know how to adapt!
Thanks to all the foster homes I was shuffled between, I have an amazing ability to fit in to almost any situation.
Being able to adapt is wonderful, especially in the workplace. For quite a while I was in sales, and I was great at it. The only reason I was so good was because I had learned to deal with every type of person.
I know exactly how to deal with most people, even if they are very different to me. It is not a skill I intentionally developed. It just comes with my experience as a foster child.
The ability to adapt is not just a useful life lesson for the workplace. Being able to adapt can help former foster children through many things.
- When bad times come we can handle it.
- When we have to meet dreaded in-laws, we can deal with it.
- When we have to take our children to gatherings with other people, we can figure out how to make the most of the situation.
- Former foster children survived childhood. What challenge could be more difficult than that?
3. I am Unique!
I think it is really cool that I am different. There are many things that can make a person unique. My list is not pretty, but it’s mine.
- I did not have a conventional upbringing.
- I do not have actual parents (although now I have an internet Mom!)
- I lived in over 30 different homes as a child.
- I lived with many different races and cultures.
- I have seen more than the average person.
Some may find me weird. Some may find my personality a bit odd, but one thing is for sure I am NOT an average person.
There are very few people who can say they are similar to me. I find that to be a good thing. I’m a mix of many different upbringings all in one.
My unique diversity makes me who I am and I like who I am!
The 3 Worst Things About Being a Former Foster Child
These are not the 3 worst things about being actively in the foster system. My list as a child was very different.
These are negative effects I experience as an adult, as a result of being a former foster child.
1. I Trust Nobody.
The down side to being a kid who was abused, then thrown into a system that could not provide me with stable living arrangements is that I never learned to trust anyone. (Or is it that I learned to never trust anyone?)
Like other former foster children who were regularly moved, I never had time to build relationships in my placements. When I tried, I was moved and felt let down. So I stopped trying to develop relationships and just started to expect people to let me down.
I dislike the fact that it takes so much for me to trust someone. In my life I don’t think I have ever trusted anyone 100%.
Thankfully I trust my husband more than I have ever trusted anyone so I at least have that, but I wish I could change that lack of trust. I know he deserves my trust. I just don’t know how to give it.
I would love to trust others without so much doubt.
2. I Can’t/Won’t Be Tied Down.
I struggle with boredom very quickly. No matter if it is a job, people, the car I drive or the home I live in. I crave constant change.
Consistency doesn’t fit the way I’m accustomed to being. The constant moving as a teen left something in me that simply can’t be erased. I wish I could take that part of me out.
As an adult I’ve had many jobs, lived in many homes, driven many cars and yet I am never satisfied. It isn’t a matter of having something better. It is simply an urge to have something different.
If you’re a former foster child, you’ll know how it feels. I’m not sure if any other people are driven by a strange need for change the way we are.
Is it only former foster children who expect to wake with a different view out their window when they wake each morning? And different neighbors when they walk out the front door?
Is it disappointment, or some other emotion I can’t quite identify, when I walk into a supermarket and discover the aisles and product placement remain relatively unchanged?
Lucky for me, I have kids! If I’d not become a parent, I would likely be someone who just moves from couch to couch to car. Traveling the world, never settling down or understanding schedules or basic normal consistency.
Thankfully my husband and children mellow me out to the point I have to keep some form of schedule and routine. Without them, who knows where I’d be!
3. I’m Not Normal. (Unless you’re comparing me to other former foster children!)
Yes I know I said being ‘unique’ was a good thing in my positive list. It is, don’t get me wrong. However being different is also a bad thing.
I simply don’t ‘connect’ with most people. I can adapt and pretend to fit in (another of my positives). Sadly though there have been very few people I have actually connected with over the years.
I see a world of people that I don’t like, perhaps because I cannot relate to most of them. I’ve come to the conclusion I actually do not like people (in general).
Fortunately, as I get older, I’m starting to discover I do in fact have things in common with some people. It takes time to start seeing yourself as something more than just a former foster child.
Yes, I’m a wife. Yes, I’m a mother. Yes, I love getting out in the garden and helping things grow. I encourage myself to understand those things also define me.
I wish sometimes that I were more normal, that I could be like everyone else. I’m not though. I deal with that a lot. It’s great and horrible all in one.
Always a Former Foster Child
So there is a glimpse into my world, into me, into what I became. I’ve met several other former foster children who have similar traits.
Despite being mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, students or professionals, we’ve not been able to forget we are former foster children.
Life holds too many reminders.
People like to say your past doesn’t define you. But psychological study after study proves that we are in some ways what our past makes us.
The good thing is we do get some control. As adults we can make our own decisions and create our own paths.
Our future (no matter our past) will be influenced by a wonderful mix of good and bad that makes us who and what we are.
And, despite the bad associated with being a former foster child, I’m happy with who I am becoming.
My Wish for Other Former Foster Children
My wish for other former foster children is that you, too, can find peace and see at least a few positives when looking back on how your years being fostered has shaped you.
We can’t change the past. But we can strive to create a better future for ourselves, and others in our lives.
Being a former foster child presents us with challenges as adults. However it also equips us with strengths. I like to think we can put the best things we gained from foster care to work, and overcome the worst things.
I can see there’s a lot of gaps in my skills, knowledge and understanding because I’m a former foster child. But that’s okay. I’m a work in progress.
And if you’re a former foster child, so are you!